What is a Sabbatical and should a pastor take one?

For the last 18 months or so, the pastors of our church have been having a discussion about a sabbatical for me. What is it? Should I be given one? How long? How should it be spent? After spending a good bit of time doing research, seeking counsel from others, and discussing it among themselves numerous times, they included me in the discussions. They determined they would recommend a Sabbatical for me to the congregation for next summer as I approach my 10 year anniversary.

Here was a portion of that proposal they wrote and submitted to the church for discussion last month:

The intention of a pastoral sabbatical is to provide a time

of rest, renewal, and refreshment of the pastor’s soul and his family with longevity of ministry in mind. The pastoral sabbatical includes deliberate efforts for the pastor to grow, learn, mature, and excel all the more in his ministry upon his return. The pastoral sabbatical is distinct from vacation time. When the pastor uses vacation time, he is not expected to fulfill ministry obligations. However, during the pastoral sabbatical, the pastor is charged to engage in devotional, theological, pastoral, and personal reflection and renewal.

I would love to hear from some pastors who have taken a sabbatical. What did you do? How long was it? What were the reasons for it? How did it benefit you and your congregation?

Thanks for your feedback!

Posted in The Pastor's Soul
8 comments on “What is a Sabbatical and should a pastor take one?
  1. Curt Arend says:

    Dear Brian,
    Our Elders have been discussing this also regarding a short one for me this Summer. I found article helpful and think that you and your Elders might think so as well.


    May the Lord thoroughly refresh you!
    -Curt Arend

  2. Jeff Crowley says:

    Yes, take the sabbatical…use the time to grow your knowledge of The Lord and His Word. Perhaps take a class, or do research into a topic that has been on your heart that you need an answer(s) to. Anything along those lines, refreshes you and assists your congregation by helping you be a better leader of The Word.

  3. Terry Lange says:

    I am not currently in pastoral ministry although I am looking,seeking, praying. I think that a sabbatical is a great idea. If you search the 9 Marks Blog, you might find some entries from when Mark Dever took a sabbatical a few years ago. That might be of some help to you.

  4. Brian

    I am interested in your research and thinking about this. I am not past my 20th year in the pastoral ministry and have never had a sabbatical. I do know men fine brothers who have. I have always sought to enjoy my vacation times, but the idea of a time of focused renewal and study is very appealing. My greatest concern is probably the readiness of the church for this reality, plus the length of time chosen to have it. I look forward to reading and thinking more about it.

    Warmest regards

    Robert Briggs
    Sacramento, Ca

  5. David Elkins says:

    After 7+ years of ministry, my congregation just approved a 3 month sabbatical for me, which I will take in the fall of 2013. I’m looking forward to it. I’ll be doing some family religious history investigation, some recreation, and studying and writing on a particular topic for possible publishing. Since I have 2 kids in school, I won’t be able to do much traveling. In my polling of pastors I know who have taken sabbaticals the key seems to be to not to try and do too much, but do a lot of planning before the sabbatical starts.

  6. Gene King says:

    I took a 3 month sabbatical this past summer. (July – Sept) I was a great time of family interaction, solitude & rest. This was an intentional time of rest after 10 years of pastoral ministry & therefore not a time for classes & study. I attended other churches & didn’t attend worship services at the church I pastor for the entire time. (If you are a pastor it is virtually impossible to be there & not pastor.) It was very refreshing worshiping w/ other congregations during this time.
    I traveled with the family, did projects around the house, spent time in intentional solitude which even included solo camping.
    The result of the sabbatical was a renewed sense of pastoral calling both generally & specifically to the church I pastor.
    Check out this resource (worth the $10) http://www.buildingchurchleaders.com/downloads/survivalguides/takingsabbatical/

  7. Bill Smithfield says:

    At a church were I used to serve as a Ruling Elder, our solo Pastor was given a few non-consecutive weeks a year (I think 3 or 4) as mini Sabbaticals. He has used them conferences, retreat prep, personal study, and focusing on his family. For each week, he would not preach, have office hours, or any other scheduled duties. I think it has served him and the church well.

  8. Traditionally, a sabbatical involves a break from work, granted by your employer, and after taking a mutually agreed-upon amount of time off, you return to your 9-to-5 gig. But a sabbatical doesn’t always have to look traditional. Here’s how three women decided to take time out for themselves and the career benefits they got from doing so, plus what to think about if you want to take a sabbatical of your own.

3 Pings/Trackbacks for "What is a Sabbatical and should a pastor take one?"
  1. […] What is a Sabbatical and should a pastor take one? | Practical Shepherding […]

  2. […] Practical Shepherding: What is a Sabbatical and should a pastor take one? […]

  3. […] “What is a Sabbatical and Should a Pastor Take One?” by Brian Croft […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Help send free Practical Shepherding resources to pastors around the world.



RSS Feeds: